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FBI's Use of Tear Gas at Waco Standoff Questioned

March 06, 2000|From Associated Press

DALLAS — Evidence from the Branch Davidian siege suggests the FBI fired more pyrotechnic tear gas rounds into the compound than the agency previously admitted, government investigators said in Sunday's Dallas Morning News.

Crime scene records, videos and photographs call into question where, when and how many rounds were fired by the FBI's hostage rescue team, or HRT, at the end of the siege in 1993, investigators told the paper. The paper did not name any of the investigators or the agencies for whom they work.

"With all that we are seeing, it seems quite probable that the HRT fired more pyrotechnic rounds than they've ever 'fessed up to," said an investigator. "You have to remember: They were running out of tear gas that day."

The FBI and Atty. Gen. Janet Reno maintain that Davidians deliberately set the fire that raced through the compound. They have said pyrotechnic tear gas canisters were fired hours before the fire began, bounced off the roof of a bunker and rolled harmlessly into a field.

But the investigator said the appearance of white smoke characteristic of tear gas grenades on video shot by a Waco television station suggests one of the rounds might have been fired as the sect's compound began burning.

A Justice Department spokesman declined comment on the report, citing an investigation by Waco special counsel John Danforth.

"Senator Danforth is in the process of sifting through all these allegations so it would be inappropriate to comment," spokesman Myron Marlin said Sunday.

FBI spokeswoman Angela Bell also declined comment.

The FBI last August acknowledged firing a "very limited number" of pyrotechnic rounds at the compound after years of publicly denying that any potentially incendiary devices were used.

Branch Davidian leader David Koresh and about 80 of his followers died as the compound burned.

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